A couple of months after I started eating gluten/dairy-free, we headed up to Chattanooga. I figured it would be easier to eat GF/CF there, but I soon found out that it’s about the same everywhere. I pulled up reviews on TripAdvisor and we headed to what sounded like a really good restaurant downtown. When we walked in I told the hostess about my dietary restrictions and asked if it would be an issue. She assured me that it would not. I soon realized that most people have no clue what Gluten is (and some probably aren’t sure what dairy is). We were seated and given menus. When the waiter came to the table, I reiterated my dietary needs.
“I can’t have gluten or dairy, what would you suggest for me?”
“The ravioli is great here!”
My eyebrows went up and I pointed out to him (again) that I could not have anything with dairy (that meant cheese) or gluten (that meant flour). At that point he reverted to the safety of fish and vegetables. We might have gone ahead and eaten there if when my husband asked for a “Fat Tire” (beer) the kid had not said “You want a Budweiser?”. Maybe he just had a hearing problem.
Fast forward a year and a half and I’ve really been amazed at how sensitive most restaurants have gotten to the plight of those with gluten allergies and sensitivities (ok, moreso the latter). More and more restaurants are offering a gluten-free menu (even if it’s only a guide telling you to order this meat without this sauce or seasoning). Of course, there are still plenty of places that don’t have a clue what gluten is.
When I wrote my Paleo/Gluten-Free Dining Guide last year, I knew I’d end up having to revise it. I forgot some major places, like Chipotle, while other favorites, like Tommy’s pizza, have closed. On the other hand, many new places have come along provided great new Gluten-free menus.
Best Paleo Choice:
Grille 29 (Providence)- Grille 29 goes above and beyond with their gluten-free menu. In addition to giving you a handful of menu items that are Gluten-free, some of which aren’t even on the main menu. They also offer more than one really good gluten-free desert. Where they really hit the mark, and cross the line into being a great Paleo choice is that that actually list out all of their meats, sauces, seasonings, and vegetables that are gluten-free and allow you to create your own custom meal.
Paleo Runner Up
Chipotle (University Drive)– A favorite amongst the Paleo crowd with reason. They source anti-biotic free, local meats whenever possible. Since Paleo folks don’t eat corn anyway they don’t have to worry about the fact that the corn tortillas are laced with … well… wood. More on that here, thanks to FoodBabe. That said, I still eat them occasionally, but mostly I stick to a salad topped with their great meat, fajita veggies, and guacomole (OH Their Guacamole!).
Best Gluten-Free Pizza in Huntsvile!
Pan E Vino (downtown)– They had my vote for best pizza when I was eating gluten, so when I found out they were offering a gluten-free crust I had to try it. I have to say that their pizza beats second place Pie in the Sky by a good margin, and beats Mellow Mushroom hands down. After I had it the first time I emailed them and suggested that they might want to double cook their gluten-free crust. It tasted great but my left-overs were actually better because when I reheated the pizza (in a skillet) it finished off the crust nicely. I’ve been back a few times and the crust has been much better. In addition to gluten-free pizza they also offer a gluten-free pasta option for their pasta dishes.
Huntsville’s Own Gluten-Free Bakery!
Mason-Dixon Bakery (South Huntsville) – opened earlier this year offering a full line of not only gluten-free baked goods, but many Paleo baked goods, as well as the option to make many items without both egg and dairy. I’ve tried a good number of items from them now and have only run into one item I didn’t care for (and, I believe, that was simply a matter of taste). My personal favorites are their Snicker-Dollar Cookies, the Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies and the Paleo Carrot Apple Muffins. Her line has continued to expand and soon she will be opening her storefront at S. Parkway and Weatherly. They recently announced that The Commerce Kitchen is offering their hamburgers on Mason-Dixon’s gluten-free buns, as well as their gluten-free carrot cake.
Gluten-Free Friendly Restaurants
1892 East (5 Points) – This is an amazing upscale restaurant that prides itself in using local and organic ingredients whenever possible. While they don’t have a separate gluten-free menu, they have no issue adjusting any item to meet your dietary needs (when possible).
Anaheim Chili (Jones Valley) – The day they offered a bacon wrapped jalapeno stuffed hot dog was the day I finally broke down and tried this place. They have about a dozen different chilis, most of which are gluten-free. They do not have a gluten-free menu, however the wait staff was knowledgeable and happy to ask the chef when she wasn’t sure. At some point I was able to find a list of which chilis were gluten-free online, but I can’t find it now.
Below the Radar (downtown) – This is a brew pub with an upscale menu. Gluten-free items are marked on the menu and includes over half of their dinner entrees and provides a large number of options on their lunch menu.
Bonefish Grill (Airport/Whitesburg)– Offers a pretty solid gluten-free menu that includes a large portion of their regular menu, including multiple desserts. They are also happy to mix and match sauces and toppings between their fish/meat options, in order to create a meal that suits your mood.
Buffalo Wild Wings (University or Jones Valley) – as far as I’ve been able to find this is the ONLY gluten-free wing option in town. The fries are not gluten-free. Most of the wing sauces are gluten-free, with the exception of those that contain soy.
Cantina Laredo (Bridgestreet) – Notes on their menu which items are gluten-free. Other items (like Fajita steak) can be made gluten-free upon request.
Carraba’s Italian Grill (Parkway Place) – offers a gluten-free menu. However, the GF menu consists largely of instructions you need to give the kitchen on how to ensure your item is GF, including ingredients to be removed, the use of new/clean utensils for preparing, etc. IMO, these are things that should be automatic when you order from a GF menu.
Conners Steakhouse (Bridgestreet) – handles their GF menu much the same as Carraba’s. What makes it more annoying is that at the top of the menu it states “Listed below are menu suggestions that we trust contain no known traces of gluten.” then proceeds to give you instructions on how to order those items so that they are gluten-free.
Drake’s (Airport/ Whitesburge)- Initially I didn’t think they offered much in the way of gluten-free options. When I emailed them and asked I was given a very short list. However, when we visited I was pleasantly surprised. The manager on duty came out to talk to me and it happened that she was also gluten-free. She let me know that all of their meats were cooked fresh in-house, so I was safe with those as well as with their veggies. The fries were questionable because while they did have a dedicated frier, sometimes when they get busy it’s possible that it may get used for other things. When it came to my sides she even offered to make me up what she makes herself (sauteed spinach with onions and mushrooms). It was delicious.
Five Guys Burgers & Fries (Multiple Locations) – Just when I’d come up with the idea to take my own plate to make eating my bunless burger easier, Five Guys stepped it up and started offering a Burger in a Bowl. You can now order your bunless burger either in a lettuce wrap, or in a bowl. If you order the latter, they will pile everything (your burger, toppings, etc) into a metal tin and cover it with foil. This makes for turning your bunless burger into a salad (or just eating it in, in general) a much easier task. Also, their fries are gluten-free. Now, if they’d just offer some GF buns … maybe next year.
Jason’s Deli (University Drive or Airport/ Whitesburg) – This is my “go to” place when I want a sandwich. They offer Udi’s bread and you can order any sandwich you choose. They will toast it on request (recommended). I’ve even ordered their Paninis on GF bread and they’ve gone through the trouble to clean the panini press prior to making my sandwich. They also offer GF potatoes and a couple of GF soup options. When your GF order comes out is is marked clearly and wrapped to protect from cross-contamination.
Lime Fresh (Bridgestreet) – Fast casual Mexican that prides itself in using fresh organic ingredients. Their flavors are very mild and often carry a lot of Lime. Any item can be ordered with corn tortillas instead of flour.
Longhorn (University Drive)- offers a gluten-free menu listing which items can be ordered as is, or with slight modifications. Very few of the items require modification.
Macaroni Grill (University Drive) –offers a gluten-free pasta that is so good you can’t tell it’s gluten-free.
The Melting Pot (BridgeStreet)- is the only GIG trained restaurant in the area. Most items on their menu are gluten-free already, with only a few substitutions needed (ie. skip the bread/chips for the cheese course)
Nothing But Noodles (University Dr or Airport/ Whitesburge)– Offers a gluten-free menu by the register (they may have it elsewhere by now). The only gluten-free noodle they have is their standard rice noodle.. Otherwise, they offer quite a few salads.
Outback Steakhouse (Airport Rd or Madison) – offers a gluten-free menu. However, the GF menu consists largely of instructions you need to give the kitchen on how to ensure your item is GF, including ingredients to be removed, the use of new/clean utensils for preparing, etc. IMO, these are things that should be automatic when you order from a GF menu. The one time I did attempt to eat at an Outback and made the requests as directed, the directions were not followed.
PF Chang’s (Bridgestreet) – This is really the only choice for Chinese food when it comes to dining out. They offer a gluten-free menu that is actually in their regular menu (no need to ask for it), as well as gluten-free soy sauce.
Phuket (Providence)- Thai food is largely gluten-free, however it’s nice to see them actually make the effort to put out a gluten-free menu that is very clear on what items are safe.
Pie in the Sky (Madison/ 72E) – This is (IMO) the second best gluten-free pizza available.
Red Robin (Bridgestreet or Jones Valley) – offers a gluten-free bun! You do need to check their gluten-free menu, however, regarding burger toppings. Also, the fries are iffy. Check to see if they use a dedicated frier and order them without seasoning.
Shane’s Rib Shack (Airport/ Whitesburge)– offers a gluten-free menu that is easily accessible online. Their pulled pork and chicken are gluten-free, however their ribs are not. They also offer grilled chicken tenders, salads and a few sides. Their menu may very by location.
Shea’s Express (Church St) – a gluten-free menu is available at the register and online. It is basically the same as the regular menu, but only shows those items that are gluten-free.
The Tavern (Bridgestreet) – offers a gluten-free menu. We stopped to eat there one night but I found the GF options too limiting for what I wanted that night.
Zoe’s Kitchen (University Dr OR Airport/Whitesburg) – Zoe’s offers fast casual Greek Dining using fresh ingredients. They now offer a GF menu online. My favorite items are the kabobs.
If you know about other gluten-free options in the North Alabama / Huntsville area, please share them below.